3 dead, 292 missing as passenger ship sinks off S. Korean coast
                 English.news.cn | 2014-04-16 18:39:28 | Editor: chengyang

SOUTH KOREA-FERRY-SINKING

Helicopters fly above a sinking South Korean passenger ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea, April 16, 2014. A passenger ship with 477 people aboard, mostly high school students, sank in waters off South Korea's south coast Wednesday morning, with two people dead and 14 others wounded, local media reported. (Xinhua/Newsis)

SEOUL, April 16 (Xinhua) -- A passenger ship with 459 people aboard, mostly high school students, sank in waters off South Korea's southwest coast Wednesday morning, leaving at least three people dead and 292 others missing, a senior government official said.

Kang Byung-kyu, minister of security and public administration, told reporters that one more was confirmed dead, sending the total death toll as of 6 p.m. local time to three, including a 22-year- old female crew member and two male high school students.

A total of 164 people have been confirmed rescued and among them, 78 were high school students. More than 50 people were transferred to nearby hospitals, but most of them had minor injuries, according to Kang.

According to the ministry, 292 people were still missing, but the figure may increase to 295 as the Coast Guard said people on board the vessel was 462, instead of 459 confirmed by the ministry.

Figures by the ministry showed the ferry carried 30 crew members and 429 passengers, including 325 high school students and 15 teachers who had been on the way for a school journey.

The 6,825-ton passenger ship "SEWOL" was capsized and sank down into waters off the Jindo Island, just off the southwest corner of the Korean Peninsula, at around 11:30 a.m. local time Wednesday.

The ship sent out a distress signal at about 8:55 a.m. and had floated in the waters for some two and a half hours with its body being on the careen.

The vessel was believed to have run aground in the waters as some rescued passengers said the ship began leaning to the port side after making a thumping sound on the bow.

The ferry veered off the pre-arranged route as it departed some two and a half hours later than schedule due to a thick fog.

The ship departed from South Korea's western port city of Incheon Tuesday night, heading for the southern resort island of Jeju.

The minister said 178 divers have been dispatched to the scene for search and rescue operations during the night time, but he added salvage operations will start as early as Friday morning as it will take time for three cranes to arrive at the scene.

Around 350 more rescuers have been sent to the scene to help search for the 292 missing people, some of whom were feared to be trapped inside the sunken vessel.

After receiving the distress signal, the South Korean authorities, including police, firehouse, coast guard and navy, dispatched 72 rescue ships and scrambled 18 helicopters to the scene for rescue operations.

There was no Chinese passenger on board the vessel, according to the Chinese Embassy in South Korea.

Related:

Ship sends distress signal off S. Korean coast

BEIJING, April 16 (Xinhuanet) -- There are reports from South Korea that a passenger ship, carrying up to around 450 people, has sent a distress signal to coastguards.

The ship is off the coast of Jindo Island, which lies southwest of the South Korean mainland. Many of the passengers are thought to be students on their way to Jeju island for a school trip. Full story

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